Tankers from Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and France are taking part in the 4th European Air-to-Air Refuelling Training exercise (EART 2017), currently underway at Eindhoven airbase in the Netherlands (26th March to 7th April).
The EART concept was introduced in 2014 following the air-to-air refuelling initiative of the European Defence Agency (EDA), and is run by European Air Transport Command (EATC) from Eindhoven airbase. The exercise is supported by the Host nation, the Movement Coordination Center Europe (MCCE) and EDA. EART is organised on a yearly basis and is pooled with the Dutch Frisian Flag fighter exercise that operates from Leeuwarden Airbase.
The aim of EART 2017 is to train tanker crews in air-to-air refuelling operations within a realistic multinational framework. In combination with the Frisian Flag exercise, EART 2017 represents an opportunity for specific training for air crews, planners, taskers and engineers in planning and executing missions in a complex COMAO (composite air operation) environment.
During the training exercise, crews have the opportunity to increase their know-how in complex multinational scenarios. Furthermore, crews can enhance their knowledge of multinational tanker aircraft and exchange information and procedures. EART 2017 is part of an approach that puts a premium on joint training exercises and increased standardisation to enhance overall effectiveness and interoperability of forces.
EDA has developed a global approach with three objectives: optimizing the use of assets, increasing the overall AAR capacity and reducing fragmentation of the fleet. This work has led to three complementary work strands, on some of which EDA is cooperating closely with other agencies and organizations like OCCAR, MCCE and EATC.
EART 2017 is part of EDA’s first work strand (optimization of existing capabilities), which is achieved by supporting training exercises. In this domain, EDA has also taken the lead to streamline the different certification processes leading to a clearance. The Agency says that, by standardizing these processes, the different aviation authorities can identify the differences between their own process and their counterpart. EDA believes that, by working closely together, already fielded capabilities and future capabilities, can work in a more cost-efficient manner and increase their operational output.
The overall goal is to address the European shortfall in air-to-air refuelling. According to the EDA, Europe is currently able to field 42 tanker aircraft of 12 different types, compared with the US resources of over 550 tankers of four types.